How to effectively communicate rule and policy changes in youth sports associations and leagues is one of the greatest communication challenges that association and league administrators face. Rule and policy changes can often be lightening rods for criticism and complaint. Often rule and policy changes are dictated by governing bodies while in other cases changes are internally driven. Regardless of the source of change, following these simple steps will help youth sports association and league administrators improve rule and policy change communications.
1) Establish a working group. For major rule or policy changes, it is crucial to get buy-in from others early in the process. By forming a working group or committee others are involved directly in the decision-making process allowing for early feedback and testing of communication plans. Later those working group members can help in the information dissemination process by serving as Q&A points.
2) Make a pre-announcement. An old adage of public speaking is, “tell them what you are going to say, say it, and then tell them what you said.” This still holds true today. Letting your staff, coaches, parents and community know that changes are coming can make later announcements more effective and serve as an early source of feedback and message testing.
3) Tell them why. Change for change sake is not good. Change for purpose is best, so be sure to include in your communications why the changes are being made. Perhaps the rule changes are being made to reduce injury or in response to rules handed down by other governing bodies. Communicating major reasons or decision influencers will help with understanding and acceptance.
4) Show the old and new. Often it is helpful to show the old rule/policy followed by the new rule/policy. This is also a great time to provide details on where staff, coaches and parents can find information on all rules and polices. Example, provide a link to the main rules or terms page on your association website.
5) Use layers of communication and an anchor point. If your association is like most, at your communication disposal you have a website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, email system, texting system and other forms of communication. Your website should serve as the anchor point for the rule/policy change communication. Websites are ideal for posting in depth, long term content. Use your email/text and social media services to announce changes and direct recipients to the website where greater details are available. Strategically placed on premise signs can also be useful, example a sign near the concession stand.
Example: New 2015-16 rules posted! www.yourwebsite.com
As humans, we don’t like to be blindsided by a new rule or policy. Game time, when emotions run high, is the worst time to hear about changes. By getting the word out early, telling them why it’s happening, involving others in the process and using layers of communication will help improve communications with your staff, coaches, parents and community.